Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

SPOOFSLOGOThe following satirical headlines come from borowitzreport.com and theonion.com:

Environmental Study Finds Air in Chicago Now 75% Bullets

Criminal Prosecuted to Fullest Extent of Budget

People Who Call Obama Worst President Since Second World War Also Blame Him for Starting It

Bored Scientists Now Just Sticking Random Things Into Large Hadron Collider

Report: Half of All Americans Probably Should Have Thought of That Before They Opened Their Mouth

Tiahrt not impressed by 57 votes against Obamacare

tiahrtnewmugA campaign commercial by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, brags that he has voted 57 times against Obamacare. His GOP primary opponent, former Rep. Todd Tiahrt, isn’t impressed. Somewhere between the seventh and 57th vote they should have figured out it wouldn’t work, Tiahrt told The Eagle editorial board. The GOP House needs to pick its fights wisely, Tiahrt said, and use its power over the purse strings to get what it wants. Pompeo concedes that “there is a little bit of repetition” to some of the votes. But he told the editorial board that the Affordable Care Act is such an enormous change that House Republicans have an obligation to continue to make their case and express their vision.

Can’t blame all of revenue drop on capital gains

taxrevenueFormer state budget director Duane Goossen raised more doubts about the Brownback administration’s claim that federal tax policies caused the state to miss its revenue estimates by $338 million during the past three months. Even if $3 billion in capital gains income was shifted from the 2013 tax year to 2012 (which Goossen points out is highly improbable, as $3 billion would be the entire amount of capital gains income for Kansans in an average year), at most that might have resulted in a reduction of $147 million in state income tax collections in fiscal year 2014 (assuming that the entire amount was taxed at the highest rate). That’s less than half as much as the estimates were off. All total, Kansas collected $726 million less in tax revenue in the fiscal year that ended June 30. That’s more than the tax drop during the entire Great Recession, Goossen noted, when revenue fell $618 million during a three-year period.

Still too many Kansans lacking health insurance

doctoroutAbout 359,000 Kansans – or 12.6 percent of the population – were uninsured in 2012, according to a new report by the Kansas Health Institute. The national average was 14.8 percent. In Sedgwick County, the uninsured rate was 15.5 percent. Two-thirds of uninsured Kansans have family incomes above the federal poverty level ($23,050 annually for a family of four in 2012), KHI reported, and more than three out of four uninsured Kansas adults are working. Though the current uninsured rate is not known, more than 57,000 Kansans signed up for health coverage through the insurance marketplace, according to federal data. That total doesn’t include Kansans 26 and younger who are now receiving health insurance through their parents’ plans, as part of the Affordable Care Act. More than 75,000 additional Kansans could be insured if Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature would allow a federal expansion of Medicaid.

‘Religious freedom’ bill likely to be back

gayweddingcakeGiven that a recent federal appeals court ruling puts Kansas’ same-sex marriage ban in jeopardy, it’s not surprising that some are planning another push next legislative session to pass a “religious freedom” law. The Kansas House passed a bill this past session that would grant additional legal protections to those who don’t want to accommodate same-sex couples for religious reasons. But the bill immediately died in the Senate after opposition from the business community, gay rights groups and others who said the bill sought to legalize discrimination. “We are not going to let it die. We are very committed,” Wichita pastor Terry Fox told Associated Press. Thomas Witt of Wichita, executive director of Equality Kansas, also expects the issue to resurface next session. “I don’t think they’re going to stop their attacks,” he said.

Pro-con: Is soccer winning over Americans?

APTOPIX South Africa Soccer WCup US AlgeriaUnbelievably, World Cup soccer has become the topic of conversation around the watercooler at work. In recent weeks television ratings for the sport have soared, with games involving Team USA equaling the recent NBA finals and surpassing baseball’s World Series. Watch parties drew tens of thousands nationwide and huge crowds at AT&T Stadium in Dallas and Soldier Field in Chicago. This time around America embraced the “beautiful game” of stunning goals and incomprehensible offsides, joyous nationalism and comic-looking flops. For decades, kids in this country, as in the rest of the world, have grown up playing soccer. Drive through suburbia on the weekends, and you’ll see fields upon fields of tykes chasing a speckled ball. Until now, that’s where the infatuation has ended. Once kids stopped playing the game, they fell into the more traditional viewing habits of college football on Saturdays, the National Football League on Sundays, with a baseball and college basketball game when there was more at stake. Yet this time around more Americans checked out the World Cup than ever before, and they often enjoyed what they saw. For once you give the beautiful game a long look, as the rest of the world knows, it’s difficult to turn away. – Tim Wendel, Johns Hopkins University

Soccer is easy to mock. In what other sport can we compile a scorecard of the number of ersatz “injuries” or the time the supposedly injured players spent writhing on the ground? But I am not here to mock. I’ve tried to like soccer. It seemed like the open-minded thing to do. Let me set the stage: It is the summer of 1994 and I am a graduate student living in London. The dormitory in which I lived had a summertime influx of Italian students who, in a gratifying example of international outreach, insisted that I watch the World Cup with them. I did so, game in and game out, as an ambassador of sportsmanship and goodwill. And, to the joy of my newfound compatriots, Italy progressed all the way to the final against mighty Brazil. And so we watched what I was told would be the pinnacle of sporting endeavor. For 90 minutes we watched. And no one scored. We watched through extra time. And still no one scored. At last the game was settled through a shootout, in which the goalie guesses at which side of the goal the opposing player will kick the ball and dives in that general direction. Italy’s goalie guessed wrong and Brazil walked off the World Cup champions. A coin flip might have been slightly less dramatic, but the effect was pretty much the same. This helps explain why soccer may be the world’s sport, but not yet America’s. – Andrew G. Biggs, American Enterprise Institute

Open thread (July 11)

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DCF also deserves rebuke in Henderson case

gavelSedgwick County District Court Judge Timothy Henderson isn’t the only one who deserves a rebuke. So does the Kansas Department for Children and Families. In addition to recommending that Henderson be censured for harassing women attorneys, the state’s Commission on Judicial Qualifications concluded that Henderson wrongly sent an e-mail informing officials with DCF that Wichita attorney Martin Bauer used to handle birth adoptions associated with Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller and had supported “gay adoptions.” The e-mail was sent to Jeff Kahrs, chief of staff at DCF, and Diane Bidwell, then head of DCF’s Wichita office. Bauer had handled some adult guardianship cases for DCF, but after receiving the e-mail, DCF removed Bauer and his law firm, Martin Pringle, from its appointment list. The commission ruled that Henderson “inappropriately mixed his personal views on sociopolitical issues” with his official duties. So did DCF.

Congress unlikely to pass budget on time

congressclockCongress is running out of time to pass a budget, and the likelihood of it doing so by the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1 is looking slim. “The House has passed only five of the 12 required appropriations bills while the Senate is batting zero on them,” the Concord Coalition reported. The fiscal watchdog group warned: “Failure to act in a timely manner risks another costly government shutdown or one enormous and unwieldy omnibus bill that lumps all unfinished business together.”

Open thread (July 10)

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Local governments grasping for cuts, revenue

moneystretchJuly is budgeting time for Kansas’ cities and counties, which means tough choices any year but especially for 2015. This week the Douglas County administrator proposed a property tax increase of 3.85 mills, in part to offset the loss of revenue from the Legislature’s repeal of the mortgage registration fee, according to the Lawrence Journal-World. And the Finney County Commission proposed a budget that slightly lowers the mill levy but includes a 10 percent across-the-board cut to funding for outside agencies that serve seniors, the mentally ill and children, among others, the Garden City Telegram reported. “We can’t fund it all and keep taxpayers happy,” Finney County Commission Chairman Larry Jones said.

No surprise that KochPAC prefers Pompeo

pompeo2“KochPAC is proud to support Mike Pompeo for Congress based on his strong support for market-based policies and economic freedom, which benefits society as a whole,” Mark Nichols, vice president of government and public affairs for Koch Industries, told Politico. That’s not surprising, as the Wichita Republican has been closely associated, politically and ideologically, with Koch Industries. Some liberal groups even call Pompeo the congressman from Koch. But Koch had also been a longtime backer of Pompeo’s opponent, Todd Tiahrt. The former representative received nearly $330,000 from Koch’s political action committee and Koch employees during his eight terms in Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Open thread (July 9)

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Turnpike overlook would be welcome addition

flinthillsLess is more when it comes to development along the stretch of the Kansas Turnpike that runs through the expansive Flint Hills, which are as close as contemporary America comes to the vast tallgrass prairie that pioneers experienced. But it would be great to see the addition of a scenic overlook, which is being considered by the Kansas Turnpike Authority in conjunction with improvements planned near milepost 111 in Chase County. That’s the point along I-35 with on and off ramps that serve cattle ranchers. If approved by the KTA board, the overlook might be constructed in spring 2015. As Sandy Kramer, director of the Chase County Chamber of Commerce, told the Lawrence Journal-World: “We would hope that this outlook would be an opportunity for people to stop, take a breath and just fully engage in what it is they’re seeing.”

Is tea party challenge making Roberts cranky?

roberts2Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., “has never been the cheeriest guy in the Senate,” Politico reported this week. But the GOP primary challenge by Milton Wolf “has sent the senator into a frequent state of agitation.” Roberts “has appeared increasingly on edge, several of his colleagues say, and his voting pattern, according to rankings by conservative groups, has shifted markedly to the right,” the website reported. When asked by The Eagle editorial board last week about Wolf’s charge that he is a career politician who is out of touch with Kansas, Roberts noted that he recently completed a listening tour of all 105 Kansas counties. “That’s just ridiculous,” he said.

Open thread (July 8)

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Rebound in lesser prairie chicken numbers is good news

lesserprairiechickenPeople on all sides of the lesser prairie chicken fight should cheer survey results showing that the population has increased about 20 percent in a year. According to the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, biologists estimated the numbers of lesser prairie chickens in parts of the five-state range at 22,415 this spring, up from 18,747 in spring 2013. That compares with the 2012 estimate of more than 30,000. The biggest recent gains, which the service linked to good rains, were seen in south-central Kansas, the northeast Texas Panhandle and northwestern Oklahoma. But the bird, which was listed as threatened in March by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is still the subject of multiple lawsuits. Kansas and Oklahoma are challenging the federal action, while environmental groups are suing because they want more federal protection of the lesser prairie chicken.

Sebelius likely exaggerating ACA’s impact

sebeliustestifyFormer Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said recently that “there are now 22 million people with affordable coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act, and that’s a big deal and that number will grow.” The 22 million is the total of 8 million people in the insurance marketplace, 3 million young adults who now get insurance through their parents’ plan, 5 million people in ACA-compliant off-market plans, and 6 million additional people receiving coverage through Medicaid. But Washington Post fact-checkers questioned whether off-market plans should be counted and called the young adults total an “iffy statistic.” The newspaper gave Sebelius a “two Pinocchios” rating (out of four).

Open thread (July 7)

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Moran, Roberts disagree on federal media shield law

justiceladyMore than 70 media organizations recently sent a letter to the U.S. Senate leaders asking for a vote on the Free Flow of Information Act, a media shield law meant to help protect reporters when federal prosecutors try to compel them to reveal their sources. “The ability to protect confidential sources is the oxygen that investigative reporting needs to survive,” the organizations wrote. Asked last week by The Eagle editorial board about a federal shield law, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said he sponsored such a bill in the House and likely would be supportive as a senator. Moran pointed to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal as a great example of investigative journalism and its benefits. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., told the editorial board that such a law shouldn’t be needed if the First Amendment is applied properly. The issue has taken on more urgency since the U.S. Supreme Court declined last month to take up the case of New York Times reporter James Risen, who was told by a federal appeals court to testify in the case of a CIA officer accused of leaking classified information related to Iran’s nuclear program.

Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

SPOOFSLOGOThe following satirical headlines come from borowitzreport.com and theonion.com:

Obama Signs Passive-Aggressive Executive Order

Supreme Court Majority Calls Case a Dispute Between Women and People

Obama Narrowly Misses Quarterly Performance Bonus

U.S. Government Sets Aside 600,000 Acres of Pristine Land for Future Generations to Pollute

Report: Shame of Walking Out Without Buying Anything Drives 90% of Purchases at Small Businesses

Open thread (July 6)

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Revenue shortfalls wiping out state’s cash balance

emptypocketThe $28 million state tax revenue shortfall in June may not seem too bad compared with the April and May collections, which were $310 million less than estimates. But those two months’ shortfalls already wiped out all but about $50 million of the ending cash balance projected for this new fiscal year, which began July 1. The June shortfall cuts that ending balance in half, leaving almost no margin for error. Unless the state’s revenue collections for the next 12 months are on target, which seems unlikely, the state could quickly use up the remaining ending balance and be forced to make midyear spending cuts. Even if the state manages to squeak by this new fiscal year, there is no getting through the year after that without raising taxes or significantly cutting spending.

Norquist’s group lauds Kansas’ tax cuts

budgetcut“Kansas Tax Cuts Are Working,” declared a blog at Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform. Writer Will Upton pointed to Kansas’ unemployment rate compared with Missouri’s, and especially the job growth along the border on the Kansas side. Upton seconded the Brownback administration’s contention that most of the $338 million revenue shortfall is due to federal tax policy, and said “Kansas still remains a relatively high tax state” in its region. The conclusion: “Opponents of tax reform and spending interests want to try and write an early obituary for the Kansas tax reform. Unfortunately for them, the tax cuts are working and will continue to improve the Kansas economy for years to come.” Upton didn’t mention that since the tax cuts kicked in January 2013, Kansas has trailed the nation and all neighboring states except Nebraska in job growth. Meanwhile, a review of Kansas’ tax plan and resulting budget problems by Josh Barro of the New York Times was titled, “Yes, if You Cut Taxes, You Get Less Tax Revenue.”

So they said

jordannick“We’re not happy with this at all.” – Kansas Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan (in photo), to Associated Press, when the state’s tax revenues proved to be $28 million short of projections for June and $338 million short for the fiscal year

“The Koch tax cuts give ‘bleeding Kansas’ a new meaning. You’re doing a heck of a job, Brownie (not!)” – Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, tweeting about the revenue problems under the Republican who beat him in the 2010 gubernatorial race, Sam Brownback

“I could carry a Japanese war sword on one hip, a TEC-9 on the other and an assault rifle on my back. Perfectly legal.” – Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., spokesman Mike Taylor, on the new state law preventing cities from regulating carrying of guns and knives

“We maintain that the state operates under the rule of law, and individual jurisdictions must abide by that law regardless of their personal feelings.” – Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, on the new gun law, which also opened the Capitol to concealed-carry